Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to the middle school art classes here in my hometown about studying and working in the arts. I am from a SMALL town on the Oregon Coast where it seems opportunities, income and influence is limited and now with our current economic situation, this area (that often struggles anyway) has been hit hard. Visiting the middle school was a bittersweet experience because I went knowing that this was the last year of the art program- yep budget cuts. But I was grateful for the opportunity to talk about being an artist, show my art and answer questions about pursing an arts education with the hope of inspiring at least one young person to stick with their interest.
I am a TRUE example of a lifetime of education in the arts- both in school and outside of school. Thankfully my parents recognized my interest in art at an early age and nurtured that desire. My longing to learn as much as I could seemed to always be met- I took drawing lessons, I had supplies, there were opportunities to explore different mediums in school, I had good and bad art teachers but art was ALWAYS AN OPTION. By the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to be an artist, I identified myself as an artist and art was my ticket to college, to opportunities and out of a small town. I received a scholarship to college to study art and the rest is really history.
Yesterday after the happiness and high of talking about being an artist wore off- I found myself thinking about what I would have done if art programs would have been taken away from me, if my parents never recognized my passion, if nobody stepped in to help me find my creative voice, if I never had teachers or community members invest their time in supporting me and it made me sad, like really, really sad. While it frustrates me to no end that art seems to be expendable- right now this is the reality that we are living with. I say that it's up to the rest of us to step in where government and education are failing. It is up to us to save the arts and perhaps this means not only speaking out but getting involved, volunteering our time and creative skills, sharing our own stories, being proactive parents and mentors, investing in creativity, stepping outside ourselves and putting the things we believe into action.